Rituals and Student Identity in Education: Ritual Critique for a New Pedagogy
By Richard A. Quantz with Terry O'Connor & Peter Magolda
According to Richard Quantz, contemporary calls for measureable objectives and increased testing in schools are anti-intellectual appeals that promise individual rewards at the expense of concerns for the common good. Quantz does not simply complain. He explores how such appeals to individual advancement came to overshadow democratic concerns. It appears to Quantz that these individualistic objectives fit people's common sense to such an extent that they require no further explanation. For this reason, Quantz sets out to investigate the nonrational influences that brought about the shift.
In part, the problems come from a misapplication of science. Accordingly, Quantz sought a way to think about schools that did not depend on the limited rationality he found in educational thought. Nonetheless, he wanted to maintain the utopian hopes that philosophers such as Rousseau and Locke ascribed to democracy during the Enlightenment. The method Quantz developed is what he calls a ritual critique.
In his book, Quantz does three things. First, he defines what he means by ritual in education and describes the role it plays in school affairs. Second, he links this view of ritual with the theoretical ideas of his philosophical predecessors and shows how he developed a method of understanding how ritual works that avoided the narrowness of scientific limitations. Finally, he proposes a new pedagogy that turns the non-rational aspects of schooling toward democratic ends. In what follows, the reader will find descriptions of how Quantz approached each of these tasks.
To introduce the reader to the nature of rituals, Quantz offers fictitious examples of how they influence education. The first example is about the high school graduation ceremony in which the women graduates must wear white gowns while the men wear blue ones. Quantz highlights the meanings of the symbols by describing the complaints a woman student makes to her colleagues, to school officials, to her parents. This example leads to a consideration of the theoretical underpinnings of investigations of rituals.
Quantz gives Emile Durkheim credit for discerning the importance of ritual performance in forming social structure. For Durkheim, ritual served three functions in society. It pointed to the realm of the sacred so it called forth an attitude of respect. It...